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Nautilus executive oﬃcer SASCHA MEIJER has a proud record of ﬁghting for workers' rights. As part of an occasional series proﬁling the Union's senior management, she discusses her work in the Union's Netherlands branch and urges members to pull together to create change...
Right back to my early days as a lawyer, I have always been focused on promoting and upholding the social and human rights of workers. Working for the FNV union federation in the Netherlands – providing members with legal help on issues including dismissals and social security – reinforced my desire to make a difference to hard-working people.
After several years in legal and international positions within the trade union movement, I felt it was time for me to move across into negotiating and leadership roles, and I joined Nautilus in 2015 as senior national secretary.
Since then, my remit has developed, and I have taken on further responsibilities in the Rotterdam ofﬁce. In 2017 I was elected to the executive board of the NL branch, which consists of general secretary Mark Dickinson, deputy general secretary Marcel van den Broek, executive ofﬁcer Charley Ramdas and myself. Together we are responsible, politically, legally and ﬁnancially, for all the Union's work in the Netherlands. My role within the board is vice president of the NL branch, and the NL team of industrial ofﬁcers, lawyers and fleet visitors report to me. I am very happy to lead this team of passionate and highly skilled union experts who have great expertise in both the trade union movement and the maritime sector, and have a strong commitment to organising and providing services to our members.
We ﬁnd ourselves in a challenging time for the shipping industry across the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, with members in all three of our national branches understandably concerned about job security in a market where social dumping is all too common. Protecting jobs is an absolute priority for the Union, and whilst our work may only be visible to some during industrial action and protests, we are continuously busy with behind-the-scenes activity.
I sit on industry committees and boards in the Netherlands as, together with shipowners and their organisations, we are involved in the general governance and coordination of the maritime and nautical sector. This means that we contribute and push for change in the interests of our members – whether that's for training, social security or pensions - and it allows us to be reactive and proactive in setting the agenda as well as responding to industry developments.
Our continuing actions against Borr Drilling have already led to a number of jobs being reinstated, thanks to the spirit of our members
My responsibilities also include international trade union work. Together with our general secretary I participate in the MLC special tripartite committee where we work on improvements to and maintenance of the Maritime Labour Convention. And I represent Nautilus in the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for Maritime Transport and the ITF Offshore working groups.
I'm enthusiastic about meeting the challenges presented by the shipping industry, and I encourage all our members to work with us to secure a brighter future. It is important that we are agile and flexible in our actions, matching our response to each set of circumstances, but when we stand together in large numbers, we can win. And while it is undeniably daunting to face new threats to members' jobs – such as the development of autonomous shipping – Nautilus is committed to ﬁghting for the best outcome, and the more active members we have, the stronger we are as a Union.
We've shown this recently with the protests in Aberdeen and The Hague against Paragon Offshore's new owners, Borr Drilling, whose redundancy offers to 70 offshore and shore-based staff we deemed to be extremely unfair. Despite Borr spending almost $2bn on new rigs, it was apparently struggling to offer a fair social plan for its longstanding, hardworking employees. We called on the owners to improve the terms and made a commitment to taking action until we received a better offer for the loyal workers – who had, in many cases, worked with the company for decades.
I'm pleased to report that we have now seen Borr reinstate 15 offshore and three onshore staff, though there is still work to be done to fully resolve the situation. It is the togetherness and spirit shown at this challenging time that will carry Nautilus and its members forward as a strong Union. This requires us to grow our membership base and encourage members to become more active.
We have identiﬁed three main target sectors for priority activity over the next year and beyond – the offshore wind, dredging and yacht sectors – where we believe we can make strides to protect, promote and support our members. And of course we will continue to consolidate our strong membership base in merchant shipping. In all our work, recruitment is vital so that we can keep up our high standards and remain ﬁnancially viable.
In the Rotterdam ofﬁce we have three statements underpinning our work:
- craftmanship, professional pride and the unique role of maritime professionals
- the livelihoods and income security of our members
- our need to be an agile, flexible union which continuously adapts its actions to the needs of our members
These principles are aligned with the wider priorities of the Union – particularly with the Strategic Plan – and we are ﬁrmly committed to the Nautilus Jobs, Skills and the Future campaign.
We are challenging each other to bring these well-chosen words 'Jobs, Skills and the Future' to life and to drive tangible results from the campaign. By working together as one Union, we can, and will, make great strides forward to the beneﬁt of members and the wider maritime industry.